Goldman to settle with SEC for $550 mln

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK,  (Reuters) – Goldman Sachs  Group Inc agreed to pay $550 million to settle civil  fraud charges over how it marketed a subprime mortgage product,  ending months of negotiations that rattled the bank’s clients  and investors.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said the  penalty was the largest ever for a financial institution, and  leaves the door open for future civil suits.

But many investors viewed the $550 million settlement as  just a slap on the wrist for a bank that earned more than $13  billion last year.

“They pay $550 million and they get an $800 million pop in  their stock price … they got off easy,” said Kevin Caron, a  market strategist at Stifel, Nicolaus & Co in Florham Park, New  Jersey.

Goldman’s shares rose more than 9 percent in late and after  market trade to $152.20 on reports that the bank was close to  settling and the actual announcement. The investment bank’s  market value had plunged by more than $25 billion since the SEC  pressed charges on April 16.

The lawsuit shook Goldman’s business to a much greater  degree than executives at the firm had expected. Goldman  executives have found themselves working harder than usual,  meeting with clients and working to assure them that it is  business as usual.

Major clients have generally stuck with Goldman, although  some customers with large public profiles have been more  cautious in working with the firm of late.

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